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Australians hungry for detailed debate and policy

By Kathryn Crosby - posted Thursday, 21 November 2013

In this internet age when it is so easy to provide extensive detail, plans, costings, background sources and really any supporting documentation to make solid, comprehensive arguments as to why your ideas for the country are better than the other guys… why is everyone running in the opposite direction and denying voters the detail?

The last two federal elections have generally been decried as policy free zones.

Sorry Liberals, "Stop the Boats" and "Axe the Tax" ain't policies; they're slogans – meaningless ones that can paradoxically cause extensive damage by locking you in to stupid, extremist positions. Claiming a mandate for slogans is just adding insult to injury.


Sorry Labor, half a page of vague BS on how X will be better under Labor isn't policy either. Ignoring your membership when they vote on policy positions like same sex marriage means any policy position you announce is worthless anyway.

And the entire Green suite of policies can be summed up in two words: "motherhood statements". Too often poorly thought out ones at that. Sorry to you, too.

Don't get me started on Clive's confusing mish-mash of absurd statements. They're not even worthy of mention. Nor are most of the other micro parties' attempts at policy statements.

Ok, so I'm a harsh judge… but since when did Australian politicians or parties decide that Australians couldn't handle policy detail? Or that it was ok to produce top level policy marketing material that had no further detail available?

Is it this trend to deny detailed information to voters which has led to a Government thinking it is ok to deny the public, the media, and even the parliament, information? I don't believe this deplorable turn of events happened overnight, or that this decision to declare the media the enemy and the public unworthy of being informed was taken in isolation.

Since I started work on the New Choice Exploratory Committee – not a political party, but a committee to explore the best possible format and viability for Australia's numerous homeless progressives to organise and assert themselves in the body politic – the number one question from potential supporters and members has always been about policy.


When we answer that this body will not be working on policy at all… well, let's just say we get some pretty strange looks and comments. This Exploratory Committee is essentially just a research project with a clearly defined scope to assess demand and what kind of organisation will be viable. The resulting organisation will do the policy development work, not New Choice.

I floated this idea for an exploratory committee on election night mainly because of the empty, sickening feeling of despair that, to be honest, had rarely left me any time I thought about the Australian politics since the previous election. It was about creating a serious, viable, major option for progressives – the politically homeless as well as those that had accepted the compromises on offer – to support.

Initially we were overwhelmed with interest, but after the initial flurry of activity I noticed a pretty core problem: half the Committee's early volunteers wanted to work on policy. They were desperate for a purposeful and substantive debate on the issues they cared about. Needless to say they were pretty disappointed and frustrated when I pointed out that wasn't our purpose (yet).

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About the Author

Kathryn Crosby is a political and communication strategist with experience on the left, right, and centre including 14 months as the principal strategist for the Australian Democrats. A member of the International Association of Political Consultants when actively consulting, she is currently on sabbatical working on a book and splitting her time between Sydney and Jerusalem. Find her on twitter at @ktxby.

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